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Friday, October 05, 2007

Airport security struggles with reality


(Published: October 3, 2007)
Do you remember this old joke: A guy comes into a bar wearing a tinfoil hat. He sits down and orders a drink. The bartender asks him about the tinfoil on his head. "I have a mortal fear of being eaten by bears, so I wear this on my head to keep them away." The bartender replies that bears haven't been seen in these parts for years. The customer replies proudly, "See ... it works!"

Lately, whenever someone tells me that the so-called "War on Terror" is working because there has been no attack on the United States since 2001, I look for the tinfoil hat.

We should call the Department Homeland Security by its functional name: Department of Homeland Insecurity. In the wake of 9/11 this nation has unquestioningly accepted layers of stupid rules each piled upon the other, from shucking shoes to placing liquids and gels in quart-sized plastic bags on the airport screening conveyor belt. I was recently annoyed by Coast Guard rules that force inter-island ferry passengers in Ketchikan to carry their luggage in the driving rain from the terminal to the cart left parked hundreds of feet away at the ferry ramp. After assisting an elderly couple struggling with heavy bags, I returned to the ticket agent and asked her why the driver doesn't pull up to the terminal and let us load our luggage more conveniently. "Coast Guard rules" she said quickly. Obviously I was not the first to ask. "They don't want the loading and unloading to be so close to their building -- it's for security reasons." I rolled my eyes. The agent added: "I know ... it doesn't make any sense. If someone really wanted to do something ... well ... you know."

My travel experiences under the Idiocracy of Homeland Security have given me lots of waiting time to stew about what our country has become in the years since Sept. 11. My thoughts frequently turn on two of the main dogma of the Warrior-In-Chief.

• The world changed on Sept. 11, 2001 -- Of course this statement is untrue. This is still the same old world as before, fraught with dangers and uncertainties. What has changed is our frontier perception of fortress America: We have been dramatically attacked on our own soil. The attack caught us offguard in much the same way as the attack on Pearl Harbor shocked and surprised us. But unlike the ebullient FDR who took us into World War II calling for courage and sacrifice, GWB calls on us to be afraid and to keep consuming.

By embracing fear, our political leaders have created a kind of post-9/11 traumatic stress disorder. It just seems to me that our domestic and foreign policies have become more insular, violent and paranoid. For the past several years, poor old Uncle Sam has been sitting up in the attic cleaning his rifle and peeking out of his curtain, scaring the neighbors. Now the crazy old goat is building a giant fence around his yard to keep out the "aliens."

• Our enemies hate us for our freedom and our values -- By that measure, I think we are losing the war -- not militarily, since this war has no military objectives; we seem to be compromising the very freedoms and values we are defending. As comedian Bill Maher says, "If we lose our sense of humor, the terrorists will have won." Likewise, if we are fighting to defend our freedom, then the USA Patriot Act is an act of friendly fire, badly wounding our cause. The 9/11 PTSD also seems to be draining our optimism as a people, a terrible fate for the nation that has been a beacon of hope to others for over 200 years.

All that being said, however, I will probably continue my own sheeplike compliance with the silly rituals of Homeland Insecurity, including submitting my smelly shoes for security screening and schlepping my bags around concrete barriers to the ferry dock.

I have recently noticed something hopeful, however: A lot of us sheep are starting to snarl at the herders -- especially the ones wearing the tinfoil hats.


Elstun Lauesen is a rural development specialist. E-mail,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


This is from the White House Press Secretary's "briefing" to the unaggressive, whimpy Washington Press Corp...

Basically all this bull crap constitutes a refusal to respond to the question and to reinforce the Myths that the columnist refers to...

...and, of course, the Reporters don't call her out and press the, it's only torture, after all.


Q Just generally, does the administration -- does the President believe that head-slapping and simulated drowning are necessary tactics to use against suspected terrorists to keep America safe?

MS. PERINO: Let me take a step back. In the days after 9/11, when we were getting a steady stream of intelligence about potential new attacks, the President faced a lot of challenges. And he asked his national security team to make sure that we designed and made sure that within the laws we had all the tools that we needed in order to keep this country safe and to prevent another attack.

In this new war, which is an unprecedented war, facing an enemy unlike we've ever faced before, sometimes -- oftentimes the best information that you get is from the terrorists themselves. They know where the other terrorists are hiding and what the other terrorists are planning. And to win the war on terror we must be able to detain them, interrogate them, question them, and when appropriate, prosecute them -- in America -- when we capture them here in America and on battlefields around the world. The policy of the United States is not to torture. The President has not authorized it, he will not authorize it.

But he had done everything within the corners of the law to make sure that we prevent another attack on this country, which is what we have done in this administration. I am not going to comment on any specific alleged techniques. It is not appropriate for me to do so. And to do so would provide the enemy with more information for how to train against these techniques. And so I am going to decline to comment on those, but I will reiterate to you once again that we do not torture. We want to make sure that we keep this country safe.

And I think another thing that everyone should keep in mind is that here in this country, it's quite a testament that even though we have a sworn enemy of the United States that has declared war on us and has acted upon that and killed thousands of our own citizens here just seven -- six years ago, we are still having a debate to talk about how we should make sure that we treat people, and that we don't torture them. That is quite a testament to this country. And the President is very proud to lead it.